Bobby Dalbec holds the keys to the Boston Red Sox offense

Bobby Dalbec #29 of the Boston Red Sox (Photo by Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images)
Bobby Dalbec #29 of the Boston Red Sox (Photo by Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images) /

Opening Day for the Boston Red Sox is offically less than a week away. Considering how the season is set to open up with a three game set against the team’s hated rivals, the New York Yankees, excitement levels are rising as the baseball season nears.

Of course, it also helps how it didn’t necessarily seem like this was a remote possibility less than a month ago. With the MLB lockout putting things on hold, the owners and the players association spent most of the winter months bickering about a new collective bargaining agreement. That has led to a franctic finish to the offseason, and a shortened Spring Training that has only been going for two weeks now.

Nevertheless, this time next week the games will actually count. And when they do, Boston will find themselves in the middle of a divisional battle right off the bat. While the Sox aren’t necessarily expected to win a loaded AL East division this season, they should contend for a playoff spot, and they could find themselves in a Wild Card spot similar to last season.

However, if things break the right way for the Boston Red Sox, it wouldn’t be a shock to see them win the East. While the pitching staff is a bit shaky, the lineup is among the most dangerous in the league, and they will score in bunches all season long. While the lineup is good now, they could end up being truly great if Bobby Dalbec is able to put together the breakout season he appears to be capable of.

Bobby Dalbec could be the X-factor for the Boston Red Sox entire 2022 season

There’s no question the Red Sox lineup as currently constructed is going to rake. They recently added Trevor Story to a dominant core group that features Rafael Devers, Xander Bogaerts, and J.D. Martinez. Throw in solid bats like Kike Hernandez and Alex Verdugo, and that’s a really strong group of six bats that opposing pitchers are going to have to go through four or five times a game on most occassions.

The bottom third of the lineup will probably consist of Dalbec, Christian Vazquez, and Jackie Bradley Jr. to start. Vazquez took a huge step back at the plate last season (he hit more home runs in 2020 than he did in 2021, despite playing 91 fewer games in 2020). Meanwhile, Bradley hit just .163 with the Milwaukee Brewers last season. So no, it’s not nearly as good as the first six hitters in the lineup.

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That’s why Dalbec’s potential development could be a huge factor for the Boston Red Sox and their lineup. Dalbec labored through much of the 2021 season despite putting together a pretty OK statline (.240 BA, 25 HR, 78  RBI). But Dalbec also struck out a ton (156 K) and barely walked (28 BB). In other words, he was the definition of boom-or-bust.

Lost in his total stats on the season, Dalbec put together a pretty solid second half of the season that he should be looking to build off of this year. Of course, he was battling Kyle Schwarber for play time at first base, but the results are encouraging nonetheless. Here’s a look at his first and second half season splits:

  • FIRST HALF: 72 G, .219 BA, 10 HR, 36 RBI, .673 OPS
  • SECOND HALF: 61 G, .269 BA, 15 HR, 42 RBI, .955 OPS

As you can see, that’s a marked improvement, and that second half performance is what Dalbec should be aiming for this season. If he can replicate that sort of production over a full season, that would completely change the dynamic of Boston’s offense. That would pretty much translate to a .270 average, with 30+ home runs and around 100 runs batted in.

Of course, it’s also worth mentioning Dalbec was useless during his limited postseason play. He only got 12 at-bats, and he failed to make it on base even one time. Of course, he was practically replaced by Schwarber, but even when he was used he had reverted back to his first half woes.

The good news is that so far in Spring Training, Dalbec has looked just as good as he did during his finish to last season. He’s hitting .370 with three home runs and nine runs batted in, which is quite solid considering he’s only had 27 at-bats so far. Of course, you have to take Spring Training games with a grain of salt, but Dalbec has looked like a new hitter early on.

Dalbec’s importance cannot be overstated. The bottom third of the lineup, based on last season’s production, is not good. If Dalbec can step up and become another dangerous weapon at the bottom of the lineup, pitchers are going to have nowhere to go when they take the hill against the Sox.

Next. The Boston Red Sox outfield lacks a top right fielder. dark

Don’t get me wrong; as currently constructed, the Boston Red Sox lineup is really good. But Dalbec is the key that can take them to the next level and make them truly unstoppable.

Dalbec has the potential to be a really good first baseman, but this feels like his make or break campaign, because Triston Casas is sitting in Worcester waiting to get his shot. It’s time for Dalbec to produce, and if he does, watch out, because this lineup is going to be lethal.